1 Thessalonians 2:9-12
For you remember, brothers, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you…
This does not sound like Christian modesty, but Paul frequently talked like this; yet he was one of the humblest of men, "less than the least of all saints." The fact is, that Paul felt it incumbent upon him to bear witness for Christ by his life as well as his lips, and there were circumstances which constrained him to vindicate the excellence of his life as well as the truth of his doctrine.
I. The power of a Christian life AS IT SERVES TO VINDICATE AND RECOMMEND A CHRISTIAN'S DOCTRINE.
1. Men's principles have ever been tried by their practices. If we find Mohammedans or Mormons living good lives we feel sure that there must be some truth in what they believed. In this way men judge in relation to the gospel. When the life of a believer is bad it is taken as an evidence against the truth of the gospel; when good it is taken as a proof of its truth. And no wonder; for it is easier to judge of a doctrine in a man's life than in abstract forms. And then the gospel comes not as a speculation that the intellect may be gratified, but that man's heart and life my be transformed, and professes that it can be brought to the test of experiment. It follows, then, that when the lives of Christians are bad they are the worst enemies of the gospel; when good its best friends.
2. Examples open on all bands.
(1) What an argument for the truth of Christ's doctrine was Christ's own life! How often has it silenced those who assailed His teaching. That perfection could hardly have come from falsehood or delusion. How often has that same life strengthened the faith of the doubting. We have been oppressed by the mysteries of His doctrine, but when we have looked at His life we have felt that He must have uttered what was true, that He can be trusted, and may be followed in spite of difficulties.
(2) The same thing appears in the examples of the early Christians. The apostles and the great master were anxious that the lives of converts should be in harmony with their belief, because the world was to believe the Christian doctrine because of what they saw of the Christian life. And that life in its purity, love, resignation, heroism struck both Jew and heathen. Nothing was harder to be answered than that, and it is that which contributed more than anything else to the triumphs of the Church.
(3) The same thing is illustrated by the power of the biographies of good men. Have we not felt in reading them that there is no religion that could have produced such characters but that of Christ, and that the religion that could produce them must be of God. Nothing better can be placed in the hands of a sceptic than the record of a Christian life which has been in accord with Christian profession.
(4) The same is illustrated by living examples. The life of many a father and mother has been a greater inspiration than all their instruction. So with friends, business acquaintances, etc.
II. The power of a Christian life AS IT SERVES TO ENFORCE A CHRISTIAN SPEECH. There are some in every Christian man's sphere to whom he ought to speak on the subject of Christian faith and practice. To do this effectually it is necessary that there should be wisdom in the choice of time, circumstances, manner, subject, etc., but more than all a life in harmony with what is spoken. The want of this is the real reason why professing Christians speak so little to others on these subjects. There are other reasons it is true — a humble estimate of self, delicacy and reserve, but the true reason is because they feel that they would be acting in a way that would bring condemnation on themselves. How can a man speak against bad tempers, if his children and servants see him indulging them? or speak about the Bible if he neglects it? Or about extravagance if he is expensive? Or about the value of the soul, if he cares little about his own? He cannot speak, because he is ashamed, and because he feels that it would be little use. But let the life speak as well as the words, and then the words will be effectual as witnessing to the sincerity and earnestness of the speaker. It is better not to talk at all about religion, if we do not live it; and if we live it religion will often speak when we are silent.
III. The power of a Christian's life IN BLESSING HIS DEATH.
1. Inasmuch as because of the death, the power of the life is more forcibly brought before the mind. Often we do not know the value of our blessings until we lose them. When we do appreciate the worth of a Christian friend while living it is not as we do when he is dead. We were sufficiently alive to his imperfections, but now he is gone we think only of his excellence, and yield to the influence of that.
2. In its influence in drawing the Christian's affections upward. When our friends are with us shining in their consistent life this world satisfies us more than when they are gone. Their life is a force of attraction to this earth where they are: but their death attracts us to the heaven whither they have gone. If they had not lived Christian lives we should be thinking of them as somewhere we know not where, but recalling their lives as being Christian we are compelled to look upward for them in glory.Conclusion: Seeing that the power of a Christian life is thus great, it becomes us —
1. To inquire very earnestly whether we have experienced it and yielded to it. We have all known some true Christians, and also some false professors. In regard to the latter many like well enough to see and condemn them, but with satisfaction as furnishing an excuse for irreligion. It is poor work to use Christian inconsistency for that end. If all Christians were inconsistent there might be something in it. But there are some who do lead Christian lives, and when near them we feel their power. What use are you making of them? Are you accepting their Saviour and imitating their example? And now if they are gone are you following them to heaven? You have to answer for the gift of every Christian man made unto you and not only for sermons, etc.
2. To inquire whether we are putting forth the power of a Christian life. Are we commending Christ's doctrine by our lives? When we are gone will men be remembering us to their advantage?
3. A Christian life is such a life that Christ requires and that Christ lived, and that Christ enables those who really follow Him to live. Without Him we cannot live it (Galatians 2:20).
(D. Thomas, B. A., of Bristol.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.